Monday, September 12, 2011

Romance is hard

As all romance writers know, our genre is hugely popular. Sales exceed many of the more respected genres even during these tough economic times. Despite the health of the romance industry and its countless fans, our writing is often denigrated as so much fluff. Woman's stuff, you know. Not quite as good as what a guy would do in a legal thriller, horror story or the great American novel.


Anyone who's ever penned a romance can tell you it is one of the hardest - if the not the absolute hardest - genres to write. Why? Because we can't have car chases, gun fights, macho posturing, blood, gore and plot mechanics take the place of  deep POV. We're required to get past the character's actions and dialogue into his or her head, heart and soul. Without it, a romance won't sell.

For those of you who are still skeptical, allow me to explain what I mean.

In a romance, the feelings of the hero and heroine must be conveyed effectively to the audience so they laugh, weep, cheer and smile right along with the characters. Think that's easy? Hah! Think again. In the past, I rewired an entire house, bringing it up to code, and found that less daunting than writing a deeply emotional scene.

Getting into a character's head is as difficult as getting into your own or your significant others' thoughts. No matter how emotional we think we are, we're all also guarded to some extent. We hold back. We don't want to admit what's really bothering us.

Characters are the same. Therefore, our writing has to convey this complexity. Not only is the hero angry, there's deep hurt and fear beneath it. And while the heroine is forgiving, there's also a thread of distrust and resentment because of what she's endured.

Through actions, words and their thoughts, we have to show what makes them tick. Believe me, it's easier to write about a bomb exploding and body parts flying than to have a hero face a woman who holds his future in her hands. The subtleties involved in that kind of writing come with an enormous amount of hard work. And pulling tears from a reader takes a lot of talent.

For those that dismiss romance, I can only guess that emotions frighten them. Otherwise, they'd sit back and enjoy one of the most satisfying genres known.

***** Great news!!! I've just contracted another title - SiNN - with Ellora's Cave. It's my first romantic suspense and also my first menage. It's slated for their Breathless line. As soon as I have the cover art, I'll share it along with a blurb and excerpt.

Also, my erotic paranormal Unending Desire is coming out from Samhain October 18. Next month, I'll share the cover, blurb and excerpt. :)


Liz said...

just so you know, you are my hero! I'm building a back list full of "deep POV" and what not, have 3 solid indy pubs behind me but am still awaiting something positive from both EC and Samhain! keep up the GREAT work and thanks for your support on all the random blog posting that I do.

Kat said...

I agree with you Tina. I find it so much easier to write the parts of the story where action and mayhem are taking place, yet for me a story isn't complete without that human connection. I guess that's why I write romance. It's also why I'm not a bug fan of stories that don't have at least some romance in it.

Congrats on the contract. Menage books aren't easy to write. I know. My first just released on Friday.:-)

Tina Donahue said...

Thanks, Liz! Good luck with your submissions. The most important lesson I've learned in romance is to make the POV as deep as you can go. :)

Tina Donahue said...

Major congrats, Kat, on your first menage!! You're so right, they aren't easy to do. It took me a very long time to wrap my mind around two guys loving the same woman without them coming to blows or murder. :)

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Tina,
I used to read Harlequins in the middle of the night back when I was breast feeding my kids. At the time I thought, I can do this. How hard can it be. Well, you are right. It's HARD!!
When I was writing Lost Hearts, the hero was so closed off and confused emotionally, I struggled to figure out what was going on with him and what he was thinking during many of the scenes.
I totally agree with you about the difficultly in getting in touch with that deep emotion in our characters and still, then be able to communicate that to the readers (who have high expectations in that regard) and communicate all that on the page without telling.

Tina Donahue said...

Amen, Kathy. Unless someone's tried writing romance, s/he has no idea how difficult it is to convey subtle and moving emotions.

Fiona McGier said...

Congrats on the new books coming out, Tina! You are a writing machine! How you fit it in, with your day-job, is beyond me! But as long as the stories keep coming, I guess we have to write them, and hope others want to read them!

jean hart stewart said...

A thouhgtful post. Wish everyone who denigrates our writing could read it. And congratulations on the new contracts. Jean

Cynthia Arsuaga said...

Amen Tina! I've been writing for two years and never thought I would. I jumped right in writing romance even though I never read them before my daughter introduced me to them. I liked reading anything but. I can't doing anything else now. Getting into every characters head and bring out the emotion isn't easy and I try to pull from my own experiences. Congrats on the new contracts!

Tina Donahue said...

Fiona, Jean, Cynthia - thanks for your kind comments! Glad to know all of you and to have you in the romance fold. :)

Lelani Black said...

Congratulations Tina on your multiple contracts!
I occasionally get the sneer, the looks, the mockery...and that's just mentioning that I write romance. Forget about explaining the fine points of romance in all its subcategories. What's a bit pitiful to hear is when family members of romance novelists cannot accept their uniquely gifted family member's art as being relevant.

I do think you are right in that some readers don't understand or want to accept/understand the emotional pieces that make the story work. The romance genre is not for everyone, for sure, but I do think readers are missing out on a genre whose authors craft exciting and diverse stories. I'm just glad the industry thrives without the support of those skeptics of the genre. I also think there's always hope because some readers tastes change over time.

I didn't really appreciate or understand erotic romance until about eight years ago, and I'm forever grateful for the book I read that changed my mind :)

Tina Donahue said...

Hey, Lelani - it's so sad when relatives are among the naysayers re: romance. Funny thing is, when a guy writes romance (eg: Nicholas Sparks) - suddenly it's art, it's awesome! It's the same old, same old. A woman's a cook; a guy's a chef.

Tim Smith said...

Tina, you're dead-on. What's that old show biz line - "Dying is easy, comedy is hard."

I started out writing thrillers with romantic overtones but had to sharpen my skills when I took on contemporary romance. You're right -getting into the character's emotional skin can be a challenge.

Great post!

Tim Smith

Marianne Stephens said...

Congrats on your new contract.
Romance IS hard - you're so right! Maybe writing a heroine's point of view is a little easier, but the hero's? Getting inside a man's head? That "Men/Mars, Women/Venus" notion explains how difficult figuring out a man's emotion/patterns of thinking.

Tina Donahue said...

Thanks, Tim - it's gratifying to hear that from a man. Most dismiss romance without even having read it.

Tina Donahue said...

Thanks, Marianne - and you're right, getting inside the hero's head is sheer agony at times!